NEW YORK -- Back in goal, again in control. That was the story of Ryan Miller's night Wednesday as he returned to the crease after backup Patrick Lalime got a surprising call in the second game of the season Monday on Long Island.
The Buffalo Sabres are making regular rest a priority for Miller, who wore out last year under the weight of playing 76 games. Lalime made 23 saves in his 7-1 victory and is likely to get another start this weekend, either Friday in HSBC Arena against Vancouver or Saturday at Atlanta.
Miller, meanwhile, made 19 stops in the Sabres' 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. He has a 0.96 goals-against average and .958 save percentage thus far.
"[Coach Lindy Ruff] taps you to play and you have to find a way to make it a good partnership and keep good energy throughout the lineup, especially the goaltending," Miller said. "It's come up in the playoffs every year since the lockout that the goalie who's been on the hottest run doesn't have a lot of work during the regular season. [Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre] Fleury was off with an injury last year, and the year I hurt my thumb [2006-07], I felt like I had great energy, too."
Miller had energy when tested in the third period, making 11 of his saves. By then, however, the Rangers were in desperation mode because they were trailing by two goals.
"We could see in their faces they were getting frustrated," Miller said. "That just leads to a good defensive night. It's attention to detail right now. It's definitely frustrating for the other team. When you have guys back-checking like we do, it's really good to see."
Ace disturber Patrick Kaleta made the key play leading up to Thomas Vanek's second-period power-play goal doing what he does best: Getting under an opponent's skin.
This time, Kaleta met up with Rangers defenseman Paul Mara along the boards just inside the Buffalo zone. Suddenly, Mara dropped the gloves and let go with a flurry of rights. One problem: Kaleta just took the beating. When officials stepped in, Mara went off with a five-minute fighting major and a game misconduct at 10:03 of the second period.
Mara was clearly avenging a Kaleta check that cost him 12 games last February due to a fractured facial bone, but it cost his team what proved to be the winning goal.
"Whatever I can do to help the team out, I will," Kaleta said. "If it means I have to take a couple punches to get a power play, I'll take a couple punches. If it sets up Thomas on the power play, great. He's been awesome right now, solid in his own zone and one of the best players on the ice."
Montreal is the only other Eastern Conference team without a regulation loss. But the Canadiens have a shootout loss suffered in Buffalo on opening night. . . . Matt Ellis made his Buffalo debut as the fourth-line center in the wake of Jochen Hecht's injury. . . . Paul Gaustad was on the ice during the morning skate. He's still a few weeks away from returning after thumb surgery.